The Narex chisels are $30.00 less than the Veritas brand, and the reviews are really good.
There is a story behind my choice of hand tools over power. Basically it stems from my wife's grandfather, who built his house, his barn, his rifle rack, furniture, and woodshop all from hand tools. He has since given them away in favor of power tools, since he is older and lacks the strength and endurance to slam mallets and hammers like he was once able to do.
I was always fascinated by the idea of historical woodworking, where the technology of the day was in maneuvering a chisel, and the pressure of your body weight determined how the piece came out after sawing it. I watch Paul Sellers and Roy Underhill videos, and am just amazed at the level of skill and finesse these guys have with each piece they create. Paul Sellers used a #4 plane to create a raised panel out of flat stock. It was the only tool he used. To me, it is beautiful hand made craftsmanship. Power tools do the trick, and they dont take away from the handmade idea, nor the craftsmanship, but I prefer the older way of doing it.
I recently acquired a free tablesaw, and upon its third use, cutting a sheet of oak plywood, the blade binded and the piece kicked back and flew across the room, missing my abdomen by a mere inch or so.
I own a Router, as well as a Miter Saw, and use them often, but i feel that setting up jigs, and clamping down a workpiece in order to use the power tool is a lot of work when i can just go to town with a chisel and mallet, or a plane and spokeshave.
Just my opinion, and hope I didnt offend anyone.
As far as the bench top; well thats the entire reason for using the Holzeppfel inspired bench. These guys did everything by hand, and used a bench like this to accomplish it. I want a piece of history replicated into my own style, in order to work hand tools daily. Any other type of MDF or Plywood topped bench will suffice for the power tool woodworker, but i prefer the idea of doing it by hand, on a bench that was made for that type of work.
Again, i do not mean to offend, I am merely suggesting that my own personal preference is in doing it by hand.